Friday, 12 August 2016

Resurrection and poor apologetic reasoning (1)

Resurrection is a massive topic that has not been treated much on this blog - sorry, there's so much going on for me with the divine Name (Yahweh, Kurios, articles...), my preferred topic!

There's often interesting chat on this subject of the resurrection on the Unbelievable podcast, why not check out the discussion this week? There are some good references for further exploration on the debate of Christ's bodily resurrection. One major name however was missed out, whom I may cover at some point (thus far I have only read one small book of his that covers the virginal birth and the resurrection): Raymond Brown. Awesome.

This Unbelievable! podcast, then, bears the title Did Hume Demolish Miracles? In the debate are Michael Ruse and Gary Habermas.

I guess the only thing I want to say is I find it surprising when lay arguments are laid out that don't cut the mustard, while good arguments are left in the background. I also don't get why another key sceptic question never seems to be asked by the sceptics, one that often comes to my mind.

What I did appreciate in the debate is Habermas' insistance to look for the strongest evidence in Paul, and not in the gospels, along with their agreement that good Christianity is not about simply believing a set of propositions, but rather love in action founded on those beliefs. Obviously for Habermas, there is the undeniable foundation of the resurrected Christ, king of love (it was not debated, however, about the possibility of goodness and love in the world, with a non-bodily resurrected messiah). As Christians, love and goodness are at the centre of our understanding of our God. Christianity is the faith I was raised with and for me still makes the most (although definitely not perfect) sense of the world I perceive around me, providing the greatest insights and gives me the most purpose. When I enter into that space of worship and love of the infinite and loving God, it is hard to see an alternative hypothesis to explain the empty tomb stories, which an increasing number of sceptics are now coming to agree probably is true (that there was an empty tomb discovered - not that Jesus was in fact bodily raised by God, otherwise they wouldn't be sceptics!).

But moving away from the resurrection debate for a moment, what do we actually do when we just throw some weak evidence for something that is very reasonable on different grounds?

We discredit it.

I believe we need to be putting ourselves more into the shoes of sceptics (or at least more neutral inquiry) and stop just singing to the choir. Do we care that we might defend our beliefs lamely?

Let me please try to debunk two unsatisfying defenses of the Christian faith. Firstly, Justin Brierly talks here about an argument based on mathematical odds. He shows just how perfect the expanding rate of the universe is, to permit the development of a stable universe. Incredibly unlikely, right? Ridiculously unlikely. So, goes the argument, this is great evidence for the intentionality and design of a Creator. But the argument's frailty is in the way it is stated: "first time", says Brierly. Yet, as he himself goes on to say in the same video, there is absolutely no consensus in the scientific world, the same scientific world **he is appealing to**, about what "multiverse" might look like. One view is most certainly that this "big bang" (William Craig seems to accept the 13.8 bn year dating for this universe) was not necessarily the first. Brierly does later mention it as a possibility, but goes on to state that this requires "faith" in order to believe it. But so does ours! This language or line of defense is not consistent with:

"the fact that we are shows us that someone has loaded the dice, in fact perhaps there is no dice at all... the product of an intelligent mind".

Put bluntly, Brierly is not showing from the facts why one option is more likely than the other, and could justifiably understood as singing to the choir (sorry Justin). Further, from that wobbly basis, he has now jumped to another position that I am not convinced he himself believes: that we were individually and perfectly planned. To be sure, I'd have to listen again to the debate with James White and the open Theist (not all details are decided by God in advance, but he knows all the possibilities and intevenes).

Although Ruse did not discuss the dice argument presented by Brierly, his point that we can look silly just trying to play catch-up with science and forcing our biblical interpretation into yet another mould needs careful consideration. If ever science could demonstrate good evidence for some sort of cyclical universe, what do we do with all the pseudo Christian science? Not only does it hit the bin with a bang, but all those who were bolstered in their faith by poor argumentation may find their faith actually stabbed in the back or feel manipulated. I would really like to avoid young folk from feeling that.

Part 2 of this article about weak reasoning to defend otherwise strong faith will be on a second post, and probably more controversial! You know me...

Thanks for your interest.

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